Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should not nominate the next governor general on his own because doing so during a minority government could pose a potential conflict of interest.
In an interview with Evan Solomon for CTV’s Question Period, O’Toole suggested that Trudeau should use an arms-length panel to nominate the next governor general, a move the Conservatives have pushed for since Julie Payette’s resignation.
O’Toole said that, with the possibility of an election looming, Trudeau should not be personally involved in the decision.
“In a minority Parliament where the prime minister is every day posturing that he might walk to the governor general, I think he's in a conflict of interest, personally,” O’Toole said.
Trudeau said last week that he is reassessing the vetting process for top-level appointments to see how it can be improved to avoid future unprecedented departures, though he was non-committal on what any potential changes may look like.
“We are looking right now at processes that can be strengthened as we move forward, and we will have more to say on that as we make decisions,” Trudeau said.
As for the possibility of a 2021 election, Trudeau said earlier this month that the Liberals do not want an election right now, and his “preference” would be that a federal race would be put off at least until mass vaccinations are complete — a timeline his government has pegged to September. However, he did not make an outright commitment to not trigger an election, saying that in a minority government it could be up to the opposition parties.
Stephen Harper was the first prime minister to use an arms-length panel to select the governor general, which led to the appointment of David Johnston, considered a generally popular choice. O’Toole said Trudeau should use the same approach this time.
"I think he owes it to that important institution to have it done independently, because it's important to our constitution, to our parliamentary democracy, to our military,” he said, adding that Trudeau “owns the mistake” of choosing Payette.
“This should not be politicized by Mr. Trudeau and his PMO to help him out. And it's unfair to the next person that's chosen. You know, we could have the first Indigenous governor general or a great Canadian that could do a great job. Don't have it mired in this resignation and this politicization of the decision.”
Julie Payette resigned as governor general last week following reports of a damaging investigation into workplace culture. The report, which was later released but heavily redacted, included allegations of screaming, public humiliations and a “poisoned” environment that prompted some staffers to leave.
Sources have told CTV News that Trudeau asked Payette to resign given the findings of the independent review. In the months prior, the prime minister had defended the embattled Payette, saying she was an "excellent" representative for the Queen and he was not considering replacing her.
With files from CTV’s Rachel Aiello in Ottawa